Victoria Park, London

No matter how many festivals you’ve been to, it’s easy to forget that binbags won’t protect you from the torrential rain, and that trainers can’t save your feet from being consumed by the ground’s swampy, Red Stripe-soaked quagmires.

But Field Day is an inner-city festival, one where you feel safe in the knowledge that the party will continue in the confines of a pub, a club, or someone’s living room. So in this context, after the festival suffered from bad weather for the first time in a few years, sliding around in the mud just felt like part of the fun.

After a particularly unforgiving downpour on Saturday, the sun peers out for a couple of hours at around half four, reviving spirits just in time for Motor City Drum Ensemble’s set on the Bugged Out stage. With a habit of building up his soulful selections towards big disco drops, Danilo Plessow has forged a career as a crowd-pleasing, but credible party DJ. The Black Madonna’s entrance to the stage is met with loud cheers from the crowd, and although everyone’s footwear looks fucked beyond repair by this point, it seems like Field Day is winning.

The mythologised Ghanian artist Yaw Atta-Owusu gets a deservedly warm welcome for what’s his second ever live show as Ata Kak. A huge inspiration for Brian Shimkovitz’ Awesome Tapes From Africa project, there’s been a long, globe-trotting mission behind the re-release of Ata Kak’s excellent 1993 album and making this tour happen. Here, the original songs’ lo-fi backing tracks are fleshed out with a live band. And although Atta-Oswusu’s hyperactive vocals don’t sound quite as elastic as they do on those old recordings, his excitement is contagious, and he hypes the crowd with his classy showmanship.

While Skepta often bases festival setlists around his well-known songs, allowing the crowd to shout the punchlines of his bars for him, Novelist’s performance later on Saturday night is closer to the essence of grime’s club-based roots. Backed by Grandmixxer’s raw and fluid selections, the Lewisham MC delivers with ferocity, precision and the sense spontaneity that separates grime from hip-hop. An increasingly politicised artist, Nov’s “fuck David Cameron” chant drives the crowd to fever pitch. “If you’re voting to leave the EU, suck your mum,” he declares, scooping up the award for the best stage banter of the weekend. With a huge crowd over the RA tent, Bicep then perform live in London for the first time ever. Musically, it’s main-room vibes from the off, with a tougher techno-edge and a faster pace than usual. And by the time they drop Just, the crowd’s inhibitions have been lost.

Despite Field Day’s shift in pace from Saturday’s rampancy to a traditionally more relaxed atmosphere on the Sunday, the weekend’s wetness remains constant. But while there’s mud flecked over the bare legs of the ill-prepared, the mood for those in attendance for Moxie’s early afternoon DJ set is far from dampened. Optimistically sporting wayfarer sunglasses, she breezes through brawny disco, techno and sun-summoning house while Fat White Family’s grubby nihilism perves its way through the sweaty atmosphere in the Shacklewell Arms tent. With the London band’s barbarous, almost fatalistic onstage delivery, frontman Lias Saoudi unnervingly peels away one item of clothing at a time. For an act doggedly celebrated for suspending themselves too close on to edge of total disorder, they’re somehow militantly tight.

Anton Newcombe’s previous experience with the edge of disorder has also been heavily documented, but as Brian Jonestown Massacre take to the main stage, all the self-destructive unbalance of previous outings seem replaced by gratitude and affection. Other than the pretty witless moment where Newcombe insists for his audience to chant “pigfucker” in order to alleviate him from a bad mood, the band charm with their shimmering psychedelic rock. The Avalanches might potentially be the most contentious addition to Field Day’s bill. With outrageous levels of hype reached ahead of their comeback, their set is unfortunately strung together with shambolic beat matching and mediocre dance material. A lot of people can be seen leaving less than halfway through.

PJ Harvey’s greyscale, full marching band bombast isn’t just an apt way to close the festival, but a complete affirmation of her role as an iconic performer. Silent for the most part, the rich thematic darkness to her songs is constantly arresting. She’s operating on another plain this evening. The songs of The Hope Six Demolition Project sounded slightly stunted on record, but here, the punch of the marching band drums and a brass section is much stronger in the live setting. The three tracks Harvey performs from Let England Shake, especially the incredibly moving This Glorious Land, feel fresh and thematically relevant in the new setlist. Harvey and her band perform a two song encore, but it’s the final, chanted lines of initial set-closer River Anacostia (“Wade in the water, God’s gonna trouble the water”) that ring in our heads as the huge crowd vacates Victoria Park and spills out onto the streets of London. Another classic Field Day finale.

Words: Davy Reed, Tom Watson + Thomas Frost